Art helping patients cope with anxiety and fear of hospital

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Art helping patients cope with anxiety and fear of hospital treatments

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Castella Justice is painting the end of her survivor story.  The Apopka grandmother is battling stage II breast cancer.  Her treatment includes chemotherapy.

"First time I took chemo, I was sick," said Justice.

Treatment for that pain now includes art.  Artist Angilyn Watson visits UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health twice a week to help patients.

"It's a great way for them to be in the hospital but mentally leave the hospital," said Watson.

She gives cancer patients and caregivers an escape

"You can choose to paint a landscape and go to the beach," said Watson.

Dr. Diane Robinson helps run the artist in residence program.

"We get to see a different side of the patients, and they get to understand that about themselves," said Dr. Robinson. "They're not just their diagnosis."

The hospital started the program three years ago.

"No experience necessary at all," said Dr. Robinson.

Justice had no experience, but she's now working on her second painting. She paints during her chemotherapy treatments.  Watson said some patients finish their artwork in minutes or hours, while others need weeks.   Last year, artists visited the hospital 1000 times.

"We're talking a lot of people touched by this program," said Dr. Robinson.

Right now, some of the patients' artwork is on display in an exhibit at the CityArts Factory downtown.  The exhibit is called "Healing Arts: The Story of Survival."  Eighty pieces are on display right now. Some are for sale. The money will go to either the artist or the program.

The program is funded through grants, sponsors and donations. However, the money helps produce priceless experiences.

"Feels like I am somebody," said Justice. "Feels like I'm doing something for the first time for myself."

If you want to check out the exhibit, you have to hurry! We're told the exhibit at CityArts Factory runs through March 16, 2013, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.   Admission is free.

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